Why we need to go beyond our current political culture to find more shared agency?

SIX’s Julie Munk reflects from The Unusual Suspects Festival London 2017

Co-initiator of the Alternative UK Indra Adnan wrote recently on Why Jo Cox’s death was a turning point. At the opening of this year’s Unusual Suspects Festival Indra, together with Pat Kane, talked similarly about how we are all at a mercy of politics which is utterly broken.

Indra describes this as a situation of political parties, which are becoming obsolete on at least four counts: the poverty of the user experience (offering tea towel merchandise, instead of participation) their structure (top down), their culture (inconsistent with the values they espoused) and their leadership (disconnected from the members).

The Alternative UK wish to change the way in which people communicate and interact with each other and is hence a platform for another form of political engagement that the one of parties.

As elaborated in the blog on Cox’s death, Indra argues for mismatch between politics as we know it, and society as it presents itself:

Firstly, current politics sees the human being as ‘homo economicus’ driven by economic needs first, with everything else arising from getting that need met. That’s why elections are about taxes and the economy rather than loneliness – the single biggest cause of mental health problems in the UK. Outside of politics we know humans are complex – bio-psycho-social-spiritual – beings: self-development is the biggest publishing phenomenon of modern times. But politics + mainstream media can’t grasp it. Is it any accident that the EU referendum, fought on highly emotional terms – the need for control – saw the biggest UK wide turn out in our political memory? What are the other major emotional drives that shape society – do we know? What might a politics of the complex human being look like?

Secondly, political parties and the government at Westminster cannot see us as fundamentally social animals, operating largely in networks (from families to football clubs), constantly looking for belonging and status. While we generate our own human and cultural capital, we never get the chance to have any collective agency. Power is handed down in dribs and drabs from on high, all the important decisions made at national level. Democracy is limited to a vote once every five years and instead of helping us build community, it divides us into tribes. What would a politics of citizenship and collaboration look like?

Thirdly, what is the party political and mainstream media stance on our world, the planet we live on? Despite the scientific consensus on climate change, the inescapable crisis of international movement and the impact of globalisation on jobs and security, there is minimal commitment to transnational discourse. ‘Other countries’ are still divided into those with us or against us, as blocs and pecking orders.